Sneaked vs Snuck: What’s The Difference?

Sneaked vs snuck. Here's a closer look at these two words, what they mean, and how they impact English writing.

Many verb tenses become confusing words in the English language because people use them incorrectly when speaking. Sneaked vs snuck falls into this category. These irregular verbs often trip people up because they do not follow regular conjugation rules.

Thankfully, there are some tricks that can help you get them right. If you need to use a past tense form of the verb sneak, this guide will help you get it right.

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Sneaked Vs Snuck: How to Use Them Correctly

Sneaked vs snuck

The word sneak means “to go stealthy or furtively” or “to act in or as if in a furtive manner.” If you are sneaking about, you are trying to move without being seen or heard. 

In American English, this is a commonly used word. However, it is also an irregular verb, which means the conjugations get a little tricky. 

History of the Past Tense of Sneak

For many confusing words, the two words actually have different meanings. This trend is not true for sneaked and snuck. Both sneaked and snuck are past tense forms of the verb sneak. 

In Old English, sneaked was the past tense of the verb sneak. It first came on the scene in the late 1500s. However, in the late 1800s, English writers and speakers started using snuck as the past tense form of the verb, and this became the common form used in American usage.

Interestingly, British English tends to favor the regular verb conjugation, sneaked. So, both words are actually correct, but since the 19th century, Americans have heavily favored the nonstandard past tense form snuck in modern English writing.

Correct Usage of Sneaked

Sneaked vs snuck
Technically, the word snuck is a colloquialism

The word sneaked is both the past tense and the past participle form of sneak. This is the traditional form of the verb and is always grammatically correct. Here are some example sentences:

  • We sneaked around the back of the house to surprise grandma through the back door.
  • The students had sneaked snacks into study hall for as long as the teacher could remember.

This is the preferred form of the verb to use in formal writing or writing that will be in front of a British audience.

Correct Usage of Snuck

Technically, the word snuck is a colloquialism. However, it has become so commonly used that it is now an accepted form of the past tenses or past participle of the verb sneak. Here are some example sentences:

  • After her stint on Alias, Jennifer Garner snuck into the hearts of Americans, and today she is a popular actor that many moms feel they can relate to well.
  • The parents had snuck into the bedroom to take the tooth from under the pillow, only to find their child wide awake waiting for the tooth fairy.

Ironically, the word snuck actually snuck up on English speakers, and pinpointing a specific time when it became part f standard English is difficult. 

A Final Word on Sneaked vs Snuck

If you are considering whether to use snuck vs. sneaked, it may help to think of these as synonyms. Both words are the past tense form of sneak. The English language has a funny way of creating new words from commonly spoken words, and snuck is an example of that.

If you are doing a formal paper, you should stick with the more traditional sneaked. if you are writing a more conversational piece or speaking, you can use snuck. Either word is actually correct for American audiences, but sneaked is the more formal of the two.

FAQs About Sneaked Vs Snuck

Is it correct to say sneaked or snuck?

Sneaked and snuck are both past tense forms of the verb sneak. Snuck was once considered a colloquialism, but today it is considered grammatically correct. However, in British English sneaked is the preferred form.

Is snuck a real word?

Snuck is a new word in the English language, but it has become so much a part of the modern vocabulary that it is considered a real, correct word. It is an alternative past tense for the word sneak that is common in American English.

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  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.

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